Top 10 Species of 2014By Staff Reporter, UniversityHerald Reporter
A teddy bear-faced carnivore from the Andean cloud forests and a ghostly cave snail are among the top 10 newly discovered species of 2014. The annual list was prepared by an international team of taxonomists from 18,000 new species announced last year.
The list, established in 2008, is released every year on May 23 to honor the birthday of Carolus Linnaeus - an 18th century Swedish botanist who is deemed the father of modern taxonomy. The aim of the list is to raise awareness about the loss of biodiversity and at the same time announce the discoveries of new species.
Researchers said that species are becoming extinct at a faster rate than that at which they are being detected.
"One of the most inspiring facts about the top 10 species of 2014 is that not all of the 'big' species are already known or documented," said Antonio Valdecasas, chair of the selection committee, in a statement. "One species of mammal and one tree species confirm that the species waiting to be discovered are not only on the microscopic scale."
The cat-sized Olinguito from Ecuador is the first new carnivorous mammal spotted in the western hemisphere in 35 years. Weighing approximately around 4.5 pounds, the smaller cousin of the raccoon, is entirely dependent on cloud forest habitat. Therefore, deforestation is the greatest threat to the survival of the mammal, news.com.au reports.
The largest among the newly discovered species is the 12-metre Kaweesak's Dragon Tree from Thailand. The dragon tree was discovered for the first time in the Loei and Lop Buri mountain regions of Thailand. Researchers claim that the species might also be found in nearby Burma.
Clean Room Microbe "Tersicoccus phoenicis" - named eighth on the list - is from Florida (USA) and French Guiana. The microbial species found in spacecraft assembly rooms could potentially infect other planets that the spacecraft visit.
Other new types of species on the list include a Skeleton Shrimp from California that travels only a few centimetres per week, a camouflaged Leaf-Tailed Gecko from Australia, and a bright Orange soil fungus from Tunisia.
"The top 10 is designed to bring attention to the unsung heroes addressing the biodiversity crisis by working to complete an inventory of earth's plants, animals and microbes," said Dr Quentin Wheeler, founding director of the International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE).